The government introduced the Dam Safety Bill amid din in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday even as Biju Janata Dal group leader Bhartruhari Mahtab questioned the legislative competence of the House on the matter.
Minister of State for Water Resources and Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal, who piloted the Bill on behalf of Road and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, said in response to Mahtab’s contentions that the Centre did have the legislative competence if two states requested it to enact a law on the issue, pointing to West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh in the present case. He cited Article 252 of the Constitution to support his view.
The Bill provides for “surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams for prevention of dam failure related disasters and to provide for institutional mechanism to ensure their safe functioning”. There are over 5,200 large dams in the country and about 450 are under construction. There are also thousands of medium and small dams whose safety remains a matter of concern due to lack of legal and institutional safeguards.
Mahtab said, “I stand here to oppose the introduction of this Bill because it does not come under the purview of this House or Parliament. The Union Government does not have legislative competence to legislate on this Bill as the subject comes under the purview of state governments…”
Mahtab said that another Bill was introduced in 2010 whose basic purpose as mentioned in the introduction was “to provide for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all dams of certain parameters in India to ensure their safe functioning, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” “This line is missing in this Bill of 2018,” he said, adding, “Once you have that line of 2010, that actually gives scope for Parliament to implement a regulation.”
Mahtab said the preamble of the Dam Safety Bill of 2010 did not find place in the present Bill and it was a State subject. He also stated that the committee that was formed subsequently took note of the fact that the regulation of safety of dams had not “yet been declared by Parliament to be expedient in public interest”. “I would like to state that our party opposes the introduction of this Bill,” Mahtab said.